Buyers’ guide: VC in the cloud

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Recession has provided the driver for the current wave of adoption of video conferencing (VC). Savings on travel costs, efficiencies in business processes and support for remote working are just some of the obvious advantages, but caps on capital spending could still limit take-up. The cloud offers a way for new users to move to VC with limited risk, while existing users use the cloud for overflow capacity when the capacity of their installed solution is exceeded.

If you are a recent convert to video conferencing (VC), or at least sufficiently interested to at least give it a try, the capital costs associated with traditional, installed VC solutions could present a barrier to satiating your curiosity. Those experienced within the sector will tell you that the price / performance of video conferencing solutions has improved markedly in the buyer’s favour in recent years, but making an investment in hardware, software and network infrastructure still requires a leap of faith when you have to make assumptions about usage.

In this sector, both over-providing and under-providing have negative implications when you get the numbers wrong. Fortunately, cloud-based VC solutions give you the chance to trial and evaluate VC within your business with very low risk. You might find that cloud-based services can provide all your VC requirements, with the capacity to scale capacity up and down as needed. For those who have made the commitment to an installed VC solution, the ability of cloud-based services to scale can also provide overflow capacity, to be engaged as required.

Cloud advantages

Cloud-based services the benefits of VC but without the upfront capital costs of hardware, infrastructure, network and the expert personnel needed to run installed solutions. Using the cloud, VC can be made accessible to users in traditional meeting rooms, from the desktop and on the move both within an organisation and in remote locations.

Extending current provision, or adding VC capacity from scratch, can be achieved quickly and seamlessly. In addition to the significant upfront capital investment required for traditional video conferencing systems, installed solutions can offer limited potential for scaling to meet company requirements. It isn’t just a question of adding extra telepresence and video conferencing endpoints. Further costs arise in extending the infrastructure that supports these endpoints.

Cloud-based solutions are designed for scalability and to be operated in locations where expert staff is not available to support operations. They are designed with ease-of-use as a primary objective, along with a consistent user interface. Where a need for support arises, cloud-based services usually bundle extensive support within package prices, along with assistance with call management.

All of this is provided to remove barriers to adoption and to lower, or even cancel out, any training overhead for the intended users of the service. The most commonly encountered problems that drive VC users to call on support include interoperability – harmonising the protocols used by the different solution vendors. Cloud-based services aim to make communication between disparate video conferencing protocols seamless, cutting out the interoperability problem at source.

Deployment

Organisations new to VC are often challenged by the process of running video calls and meetings. As those with experience of video-enabled organisations will understand, a certain discipline is needed to manage the meeting process. Cloud-based services often offer assistance with scheduling, monitoring and managing video meetings built into the solution.

But while cloud-based services offer business users a chance to use video conferencing in an affordable, easy to operate way, with no dependence on in-house expertise, they do not offer a truly global service – although some are close to doing so (see below). It’s a case of matching the service provider to your needs.

For example, where do you stand on the issue of security? While none of us would happily contemplate the idea that our video meeting are open to all and sundry, there are some instances where security can be the critical consideration. Service providers are introducing increasingly sophisticated measures, include options to publish and lock meetings or drop participants. Some providers assign every meeting a user-defined password. A number of encryption options are offered by service providers for end-points. Meeting participants can usually prohibit meetings from being recorded or captured by any other means.

There is an increasing array of VC services available with particular strengths and a variety of charging structures. What follows is a selection of services that you might consider for your business, at low cost and very low risk.

SET as a boxout:

Cloud-based video conferencing services

Here is a selection from the increasing range of cloud-based video conferencing services currently available:

Deutsche Telekom VideoMeet

VideoMeet is the result of a partnership between Deutsche Telekom and Blue Jeans Network (see below). VideoMeet is described as the first cloud-based multi-party videoconferencing service that connects practically any video client globally. The service enables conferencing between room systems, PCs, tablets, and smartphones even when using Skype, Google video chat or Microsoft. All you need to use the service is a video conference device, an Internet connection, a VideoMeet account and someone to call.

See page 20 of this issue for an extensive review.

www.videomeet.com

Orange Business Services Telepresence Pass

Orange Business Services has introduced Telepresence Pass, a cloud-based video conferencing service for enterprises. The France Telecom-backed company says that the solution is “easy-to-adopt” and future-proofed. The new service provides organisations with a telepresence infrastructure in the cloud that is fully managed and comes with end-to-end quality guarantees for a monthly subscription fee. Orange says that it has telepresence-ready infrastructure in 21 countries and will be able to offer service availability of up to 99.95 per cent. The company has interoperability agreements with five service providers including: AT&T; BT; Tata; Telefonica’ and Verizon.

Glowpoint

Glowpoint provides cloud managed video services between any endpoint, network and business. Using the company’s OpenVideo cloud architecture, Glowpoint says it enables organisations of all sizes to adopt business-class video easily, scale instantly and collaborate openly, yet securely across technology boundaries. Since its inception, Glowpoint has established a diverse client roster, including Fortune 100 companies, educational institutions, governments, healthcare providers, business service providers, and non-profit organisations. Today, Glowpoint supports hundreds of clients located in 68 countries and is the trusted managed service partner for leading unified communications providers, telepresence manufacturers, global carriers and AV integration firms. Glowpoint manages thousands of telepresence and videoconferencing rooms, produces hundreds of thousands video conferences annually, and has enabled millions of minutes of inter-company video calling via its business-to-business (B2B) exchange.

www.glowpoint.com

Blue Jeans Network

Blue Jeans cloud-based video conferencing service is said to be easy, compatible and affordable. Blue Jeans says it can bridge together business and consumer video conferencing solutions, enabling you to collaborate more effectively with colleagues, customers, partners, suppliers and your social network. The company says it can interoperate with most business and consumer video conferencing endpoints. Meetings can be scheduled and hosted from and intuitive web interface. Just click a link or dial a number, then control the show as Administrator for a better meeting experience for all. All you need is a video conferencing device and someone to meet; and the service provider says it will take care of the rest. You can invite up to 25 people from anywhere in the world to connect with confidence to a secure service environment.

www.bluejeans.com

Nefsis

Online services innovator Nefsis (a Brother subsidiary)says that its video conferencing cloud for business “virtualises” multipoint video control units (MCUs), desktop gateways, and collaboration servers — effectively eliminating traditionally premise-based hardware components, their upfront costs, and on-going management complexity. This is in stark contrast to pre-Internet video conferencing architectures that still require several components, a major undertaking, and third- party involvement simply to integrate multipoint video and collaboration. Today, all that is required is a plug-and-play webcam or HD peripheral and an all-in-one, software-as-a-service subscription to cloud-based Nefsis. The scope of business video conferencing applications has grown to include multipurpose conference rooms, desktops, and live collaboration among internal employees and external conference participants. To support this scope, the premise-based approach requires MCUs, collaboration servers, desktop gateway servers, and network changes to support access to each piece of equipment. The cloud computing approach virtualises all these components across a distributed cloud, and provides IT staff with a simple, scalable online service.

www.nefsis.com

Vidtel

Vidtel’s cloud video conferencing service provides high-definition and standard-definition video conferencing on-demand for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) or businesses (SMBs) on a monthly subscription basis or a pay-as-you-go fee. Vidtel is device-agnostic and works with SIP, H.323, Skype and GoogleTalk.  You can mix and match from various vendors and types of endpoints (room systems, video phones, tablets, mobile phones) to suit different needs, plug them into the Vidtel network and instantly start high-quality B2B video conferencing. You can connect your enterprise-class conference room system with at-home workers or partners on different networks. 

www.vidtel.com

Videonations

Videonations says it delivers cloud video conferencing solutions that offer flexibility and simplicity. Cloud video conferencing enables organisations to quickly adopt high definition video conferencing without having to face challenges with IT resources as there is no need for in-house infrastructure equipment. Simply connect to another video conferencing user by using a cloud video conferencing service. Many organisations come across network difficulties when adopting video conferencing, and when restricted by budget businesses often find they are limited in their video collaboration capabilities. Cloud video conferencing eliminates these challenges delivering simplicity, flexibility, and high quality, all at an affordable cost. Remote workers often come across complications when attempting to connect to important meetings when the video conferencing infrastructure is not up to scratch. With cloud video conferencing workers can connect to a meeting room environment and experience enterprise level quality.

www.videonations.com


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